Alta Via is an Italian progressive rock band consisting of Andrea Stagni (keyboards, vocals, guitars), Giulano Vandell (bass), Marcello Belha (drums, vocals) and Mauro Monti (guitar, vocals). They got help from singers Betty Copeta and Laura Monti. Their debut album Girt Dog was recorded between October 2009 and April 2010 at Studiocarressa in Bazzano (Bolsano). They were very fortunate to get in touch with the record label White Knight Records led by Rob Reed (Magenta) and Will Mackie (Hoggwash), who wanted to release this album.
It's not so easy to describe the music of Alta Via in a proper way. It contains many elements of prog rock, heavy rock and mainstream, but also some elements of pop with a jazzy undertone in the vocals! All these elements can be heard in the opening song Picture Frame. The pace goes from slow to up-tempo in the excellent guitar and keyboard solos played by Mauro Monti and Andrea Stagni. However, also drummer Marcello Belha deserves a compliment for his energetic and varied way of drumming. The Circle Gallery holds a dynamic and modern approach, but you can also hear early-Genesis during the Foxtrot-era in the vocal parts by the dramatic way of singing, combined with some heavy instrumental duels. Pallas and Yes running off the road in overdrive, is the only comparison I can think of. Another Lie is more in the vein of Genesis with Phil Collins. These Italians surely know their classics! This piece contains more melodic parts than the previous songs; the synth and guitar parts in the middle-section are in the best prog rock tradition. The last three minutes are very surprising and taste morish.
The ballad My Me And You sung by Monti and the two female guest singers, makes a welcome change after the more heavy songs. In Another Way is a simple very modern American progressive rock song which certainly doesn't belong to my favourites. I like the jazzy song Ghost Caged For Keepsake a lot more. The final three minutes made me happy with its guitar and synth solos in the vein of Kansas and UK. I'll Be There is okay and has a nice ending. Wounded, part I is a nervous and hectic song in the beginning, but fortunately the middle-section is more relaxed and the final part tastes like Italian ice cream! Do I have to say more? A refreshing neo-prog melody is easily built up in Wounded, part II. Last song Teleselezione starts with thirty seconds of silence and some piano and bass rehearsals; a rather strange composition to end a fine debut of a promising Italian prog band.
***+ Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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